News

Networking takes a new form

SeattlePI.com blogger Monica Guzman, far left, talks with Island resident Scott Porad, standing, and Dennis Montgomery, during an informal get-together at the Roanoke Inn on Wednesday, July 22. The evening was organized through Twitter and Guzman’s blog.  - Kendall Watson/Mercer Island Reporter
SeattlePI.com blogger Monica Guzman, far left, talks with Island resident Scott Porad, standing, and Dennis Montgomery, during an informal get-together at the Roanoke Inn on Wednesday, July 22. The evening was organized through Twitter and Guzman’s blog.
— image credit: Kendall Watson/Mercer Island Reporter

It’s quaint, historic and down-right kitschy. But is the Roanoke Tavern a great place to network? Looking for a chance to meet readers, residents and friends, SeattlePI.com newsgatherer Monica Guzman decided to find out on July 22.

After blasting a “tweet” out to her Twitter account’s 5,000 followers (an online social news networking Web site that limits messages to 140 characters) and posting a notice on the blog, the “Big Blog Meetup” was officially on. On Mercer Island.

“It’s about meeting people face-to-face,” she said. “There’s no agenda. Each meeting is completely different from the next.”

In the 21st century of instant messaging, blogs and Blackberry devices, it appears there is nowhere better to communicate locally than an early 20th century-era meeting place. Every Wednesday, Guzman heads out into the neighborhoods of Seattle and the suburbs to get a sense of what is happening on the ground and what residents are talking about. But by utilizing networks of people on social mediums such as Twitter and the SeattlePI.com’s The Big Blog, Guzman found that she could achieve more than just looking for a good news tip — she could also visit new locales and make new connections and contacts.

The blogger-journalist was one of around two-dozen employees of the Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer who stayed on at the online-only news organization after the newspaper stopped printing earlier this year. Since 2007, she has been latching onto “buzz-worthy” topics at the Web site’s The Big Blog.

The topics posted on July 22 included prescription drug-related deaths in King County, First Lady Michelle Obama’s new hairdo and a Carl Sandburg poem describing the day’s foggy weather.

Usually, a neighborhood coffee shop is chosen because the atmosphere naturally lends itself to conversation. But having never visited Mercer Island before, Guzman was advised to forego a visit to Tully’s and head straight for the Roanoke.

“This place is amazing,” she declared, though she wasn’t sure about the vintage rotating Schlitz Beer display mounted to the ceiling.

SeattlePI.com summer intern and fellow blogger Kailani Koenig-Muenster — a resident of Bainbridge Island when she is not away at Emerson College in Boston — was making a connection with Pet Holdings, Inc. CTO Scott Porad, a new resident on the North end who lived only two blocks away.

“The Internet is such a faceless medium,” Koenig-Muenster said. “Meeting people face-to-face adds a layer that we couldn’t add through simply typing words.”

The meet also appeared to be a good opportunity for Guzman to mix work with leisure. Not long after the meet-up began around 5:30 p.m., Guzman’s boyfriend, a director of new media at the Parnassus Group, arrived.

“Initially, I wanted to explore how journalists connected with readers,” Gruzman said. “Like how the Internet lets you do that.”

She said the meet-up locations are never announced more than a week in advance because of the informal nature of the event and its announcement on Twitter, where the brief messages and short attention spans prevail.

“Twitter is so popular because we only have so much time to read,” she said. “But everyone has time to read 140 characters [of text].”

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